More Photo Backlog

Having finally found the “correct” camera calibration, I’ve now reimported my entire library back into Lightroom and have begun processing again. I’ve now posted some of the remaining pictures from Curaçao which have been waiting since last year. Maybe, by the time it’s time to leave for this year’s dive trip, I’ll have last year’s pictures posted. I have one more directory to finish, and I’m goinig to try to do it in the next hour or so. Those will be the pictures of the town of Willemstad, which is quite colorful.

Now that I feel I’m not fighting Lightroom, maybe I can process the remaining 3000 pictures sitting in my “working” documents.

New Ikelite Case

2012-01-08 23:30:18

Last week, I received my Ikelite case for the Canon G9. This case is brand new. So new, in fact, that I am probably one of the first people to get one. I bet that even the underwater photography product reviewers got theirs no faster than I. It was released on October 17th and in my hands in the afternoon of the 19th. That’s what I call fast.

This came well ahead of time, since for a while, we were worried that the case wouldn’t come. The Canon case, which is much smaller and has less features, will not be released until Nov. 15th… and we leave on our trip on Nov. 14th. That wouldn’t work. So, for a while, I was nervous since I had no idea when I would actually get the case. But, I have it now, so all is good and I’m completely psyched up for our dive trip now.

I have to say that this will be unlike any underwater photography experience I’ve had to date. Previously, I carried only a pocket camera and a relatively similar sized case. Now, however, this case and external strobe is…  well, HUGE. It is not, of course, that large in comparison to other Ikelite cases [especially since those are geared for D-SLR cameras], but it’s not a pocket camera case even though the G9 is a pocket camera. I’ll have to post a picture of me holding it since it’s rather larger than anything I’ve used so far. The stobe is nice and powerful [I got the DS-51, which is the bottom of the line, but it still works great – better than I expected] but having it mounted so far up will take some getting used to.

Color Calibration Resolution

Be warned: some technical information follows…

So – in the previous posting, you learned:

  1. That TIFF is the “master” of all digital formats – all RAW and DNG formats are really just tweaked TIFF.
  2. That Lightroom applies “wild guesses” of what they [Adobe] think the RAW images should look like.
  3. That the “wild guesses” Lightroom has been making have been unsatisfactory – the G9 RAW much more so.
  4. That I was even considering doing away with it.
  5. That my underwater case would arrive today [which it did, but more on that later].
  6. That I was on the verge of having a conniption.
  7. How to spell “conniption”.

The good new is that I have found a solution that will help me keep the pictures as they should appear… I think.

I have been reading about how to make the renderings of ACR or Lightroom match the regular output of what the JPG image looks like straight out of the camera, and I found a technique using an X-Rite ColorChecker and Thomas Fors‘ script. The gist of it is this: you take a picture of the color card in daylight-balanced light [two lights at 45 degree angles from the card on either side] at multiple exposures to ensure that you get it right. Then, you take that RAW file, open it in Photoshop, select four points on the image, and run the script. The script does some things – I have no clue what, except that it takes a long time – and then outputs a chart of what your camera calibration settings in the different color bands should be; e.g. Red Hue -16, Red Saturation 56 or other such values. You then open a regular RAW image [not the color chart] taken with that same camera and either in ACR or Lightroom, go to the Camera Calibration section and enter the values it spits out. Then, save it as the default for that camera and it will make those same adjustments to each RAW image taken by that camera. We have three, so we took three calibration shots with each camera and chose our favorite exposre.

Now – even this isn’t “right”, but it’s closer than ACR gets and it looks much more intense. I will be spending some time making minor adjustments, but I will be comparing the looks from Canon’s native software and Lighroom to make sure that I’m getting what I see when I look through the lens.

As a sample, this is what the script recommended for my 5D:

  • Red Hue: -18
  • Red Sat: 54
  • Green Hue: -9
  • Green Sat: -17
  • Blue Hue: 6
  • Blue Sat: -8

For the G9, the settings were quite different:

  • Red Hue: -15
  • Red Sat: 39
  • Green Hue: -1
  • Green Sat: 4
  • Blue Hue: -1
  • Blue Sat: 28

That’s quite different if you were to see what these settings do to the image. The results were that the RAW processed for the G9 did not look horrid anymore, but still was not quite right. It will definitely take some tweaking and a little more work. I just want our pictures to look their best.

And, phew! What a lot of work!

Almost Had A Conniption

First: the good news. I just got a notice from B&H that the underwater case for my new G9 has shipped! I was not expecting this until next week. The case was to be released by Ikelite on the 17th [today], so I expected shipping lag time, but it seems that the case will be here on Friday. I gotta test it out! It will be the finest piece of underwater photography gear that I’ve ever owned.

Now, the bad news… I downloaded the RAW files from the new Canon G9 [which will be taken underwater on our vacation] and opened them in Adobe Lightroom. Much to my horror, I watched the pictures change from nice to HORRID!

This is a thing that happens when you import pictures into Lightroom – it runs Adobe Camera RAW [henceforth refered to as ACR] to process RAW files, and ACR has some defaults that it uses. So when you import RAW images into Lightroom [this doesn’t happen with JPG files], you see the thumbnail picture as it appeared in your camera’s LCD. Then, when it has a chance to fully process the picture and generate its own thumbnail, the picture “shifts” to the preferences specified in the ACR profile for the supported camera. This happens with both the 5D and the XTi, but the G9 is currently “unsupported” in ACR and Lightroom 1.2. This means that the software doesn’t have a statistical baseline for guessing what the proper defaults should be. The minor changes in images from the big cameras have so far been minor and have caused us some minor inconveniences, but the changes “guessed” at for the G9 have changed the pictures beyone recognition. I was going to have to revert to using the Canon software programs to perform all image extractions, but there is some good news.

I discovered a site that talked of using a color chart and a Photoshop script to calibrate ACR and Lightroom to not just the model of your camera, but your specific camera and any chromatic deviations that its senor might exhibit. This may mean that I can keep using Lightroom and make sure that it does not change my photos to look different than they were captured. I will post more of this tomorrow with links and such, as I’m getting tired and want to sleep now.

One thing I did learn, however, is that the CR2, NEF, and even DNG formats [basically all RAW file formats] are all a slightly modified version of TIFF. Interesting, yes? Oh – and I learned another thing: there is a science behind color management in the digital world – and I have had only the faintest glimpse and am seriously intimidated. Wow. My brain hurts.

Working Again

Now that we’re back from our all-too-brief vacation, I’m back at work. Luckilly, I’m not working the crazy schedule anymore. Things have slowed down considerably. For that I’m grateful.

Of course, that means that I need to spend some time on the things that slide when I’m working too much: like organizing my office, posting some pictures, paying some bills, filing paperwork, etc. Lots of stuff. Oh – and continuing to learn more and more about photographic techniques and business practices.

Vacation (A Small One)

Today, Laura and I head out to Massanutten, VA. We’ve never been out there, but it should be fun. It will certainly be COOL since a massive cold front has blown in taking us down from the low 90s to the 50s or 60s. It is actually begining to be a little like fall.

We’re going to spend the weekend out there in a cabin and won’t be back until Sunday.

It’s certainly a needed break.

Underwater Photography, Third Try

With the upcoming arrival of the new camera, we will begin our next attempt at underwater photography. We have tried this multiple times with two different cameras so far, but with one setup: a pocket digital camera and an underwater housing. We have not yet tried it with a strobe.

So – it could be that we didn’t give the poor little S80 a real chance to shine, so to speak. In that vein, I’m glad we’ve ordered the G9 since it is usually handy to have a pocket camera instead of just the big, honkin’ DSLRs. I’ve ordered a housing and strobe setup by Ikelite specifically for this camera. The strobe will be delivered tomorrow, but the case is on backorder. I HOPE it will be here in time for our departure. I have no guarantees, but they say it will be shipped to the distributors on October 17th, who will then ship it to us. We leave on November 14th, so I hope that the case gets here well before that.

New Underwater Camera?

We’re going to try out a new underwater camera: the Canon G9. We were planning on renting a housing for Laura’s Rebel XTi, but found out that for the same price as  the rental [or perhaps a little more], we could BUY a great quality pocket camera. So we started looking…

Looking at the old standby, the A series from Canon with which were were so familiar, I shortly realized that the G9 [notice, that’s not an “A”, but a “G”] was brand new and that RAW image support was back in! This was one of our complaints with the S80 – the S70 had RAW capabilites, but the next version did not, nor did the G7. The G9 lists for the same price that the S80 listed for, but due to the vast number of discounts I get for working at Microsoft, I was able to get the camera for $30 less than the best online price.

This is very important for underwater photography for several reasons, but mainly the dynamic range of photos is usually quite different underwater than it is on the surface, so a broader capability in the image format is necessary. RAW is a 12-bit data format, while JPG is 8-bit. The extra 4 bits goes a very long way. This will allow some serious recovery of highlights in what tend to be blown-out pictures [which we saw a lot of with the S80, unfortunately].

Our challenge now will be to both find a decent strobe setup that won’t cost too much and to find the new Ikelite case. I’ll have to make some phone calls for that if I want it to be shipped before we depart on our dive trip.

Oh – and the camera is not only for underwater. It can do everything else, too…

Another Wedding Under Our Belt

This weekend, we did another wedding. This time, we were the “only” photographers [there were a lot of family and friends with their own cameras]. We had very little time to prepare as we were only asked to do it a few days in advance and didn’t even have a chance to discuss what was desired with the bride or groom. We only were able to talk to the photographer who referred us to the job, and he didn’t have too many ideas about what they actually wanted either.

So, we had to make do and improvise and I only hope that we met with their expectations.

Every time we do this, I am continually amazed at how much I enjoy it. It’s tiring and stressful, but I come away from the event with a sense of wonder and satisfaction. I never thought that this would be the direction I would go. I thought that I would spend my photographic career taking beautiful landscapes or close-up pictures of bugs and flowers. But it seems that people in celebration are pleasing to photograph. Especially when you can sneak up on them and take a picture without them noticing!

Dive Turkey 6: Dead For The Year.

It’s official now. No Dive Turkey this year. So, Laura and I will be going on our own little jaunt to Los Cabos in Mexico. This is our first venture to the Pacific coast of Mexico and the Baja. It’s certainly possible that we could see some large sealife – even up to the Whale Shark. Now THAT would be exciting!

Now I have to find a camera to use underwater…